Anthropology 24, Section 2

Becoming Human: Tracing the Archaeology and Evolution of Human Origins (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor Lisa Maher
Wednesday 10:00-11:00, 2224 Piedmont, #15, Class number: 46664

How did we become human? As a topic that captures the imagination in our quest to understand our species, it seems like every month there is a new discovery and a new piece to the ever-changing puzzle. This course traces the history of the human lineage, with a particular focus on the last phases of human evolution—namely, why and how we successfully covered the globe. We will do this by examining the most recent scientific discoveries and exploring how these data are covered in the media and other popular venues. Through this lens, we will explore the emergence of the first bipedal hominids, look at the earliest evidences for tool use, discuss theories about what happened to our closest fossil relatives, the Neanderthals and newly-discovered Denisovans, and the appearance of modern human behavior, and explore how Homo sapiens came to dominate the globe. Recent developments in our understanding of the fossil record, ancient DNA, and archaeological data have revolutionized how we understand the physical and cultural characteristics that make us human and major theories for how those characteristics evolved.

Instructor Bio

Lisa Maher is a prehistoric archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology who has been working in the Near East, North Africa and Arabia for more than seventeen years. She is involved in research all over the globe and directs several excavation projects in Jordan, most recently at a 20,000-year-old hunter-gatherer aggregation site that is the largest Palaeolithic site in region and with the country's earliest hut structures and human burials. Specializing in geoarchaeology, ancient stone tool technologies, and cultural heritage conservation, she is interested in the intersections between past landscapes and people, from our earliest human ancestors to the present.

Faculty web site:


Freshman students; no background in science, evolution, or archaeology necessary.